On Atrophy

For months I felt like I was shriveling up, wasting away of direction and purpose. I was doing a lot of good things, but nothing seemed to be the thing I was supposed to do. Something was missing and the emptiness was pressing in. I sought God again and again, asking for wisdom.

I wasn’t seeking to do something great. I get a bit allergic when I start thinking along the lines of greatness for God. I remind myself that I am just a branch who must cling tight to the vine. It is up to Him to determine the size of the fruit. He produces greatness. He reaps the glory.

But something. I felt like I needed to be doing something. Something that I was made to do.

The answer came through a sermon a couple months ago. My pastor was preaching on spiritual gifts and how we are all gifted to serve the body in different ways. If we are not using our gifts, other parts of the body will suffer as they try to compensate for the lack in that area.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:11-16

As circumstances at church would have it (good circumstances, by the way), I had been unable to teach a women’s Bible study as I had done for many years. Teaching is one of my spiritual gifts. By the time I heard the sermon, it had been about a year since our Bible study last met.

So while none of the message was new to me, it hit me in a new way. I had not ceased using my gift of teaching by personal choice, but it was being neglected none-the-less. And like an unused muscle that atrophies, I realized that I, all of me, was suffering from atrophy. Shriveling up, useless.

I knew the effects of an unused gift on the body, but I had no idea how much it would effect me. It was as if the light bulb went on and I knew I wasn’t just going crazy. Not only am I called to teach for the benefit of the body, but to some extent, I need to teach for my own spiritual growth. I need to exercise my gifts to avoid spiritual atrophy.

It appeared that I would have to wait until fall to begin teaching again. But knowing a muscle needs a workout, and even planning for a workout, isn’t the same as giving it a workout. I was chomping at the bit and feeling restless in the waiting. Amazingly, God opened the doors for an opportunity to lead a high school girls’ Bible study this summer!

I’ve been all nerves and excitement for the last week as I quickly planned for our first session last night. For the first time in a long time, the muscles are being worked and stretched and I feel life coming back.

Who knew that overcoming atrophy could make me feel downright giddy!

So how about you? What are your gifts? Are you using them for the benefit of the body? Have you ever experienced spiritual atrophy?

In hope,


About Shelli Bourque

An ordinary girl living by the grace of life in Christ. Adoring wife and mom. Lover of quiet places and uncluttered spaces. Beauty seeker and image maker.


  1. Deb says

    Hi Shelli, I am so glad to have found your blog today. I am a blogger going to Bolivia with a team from World Vision the end of the month. I am an Ambassador, too!

    I love your sentence, “I get a bit allergic thinking along the lines of greatness for God.”

    Whew! Amen! Thanks for sharing this. I think my faith muscles are about to get an extra good workout. Blessings, Deb

    • Hi Deb! I am so glad you found me, too! We’re World Vision kindreds.

      Congratulations on being part of the Bolivia trip. I heard about it, and through you, just saw the cool banner for it – I’ve already added it to my sidebar. Being a WV trip blogger is a dream of mine. I’ll be following the trip closely and praying for you all.


  2. Loved this post. I love how in Psalm 139 it teaches that God directs our paths and hems us in before and behind. I know that God limits us for our own good, or to get us going in a different direction, that we may not have thought of before. It certainly has been true in my own life. Sometimes what I want is not what God wanted for me at that time and place, and learning to be content with where we are and trusting God’s sovereignty is also a lesson I think He wants us to learn. Love your blog.

    • Yes, yes. I know what you mean. Paul Tripp just tweeted this morning: “Your job is not to discover God’s will for you before hand. Your job is to trust his grace, rest in his revealed wisdom, and let him guide.”